Environmental groups sue EPA for lack of oversight of CO’s ozone reduction

Two environmental groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency over what they say is a failure to make sure Colorado is cleaning up its polluted air.

The Center for Biological Diversity and 350 Colorado petitioned the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear their complaint, bypassing the lower courts. The two groups say the EPA approved a state plan to reduce ozone pollution even though that plan will not meet federally mandated goals for clean air.

“The EPA’s approval of this pollution-reduction plan, which we already know has failed, could have been straight out of George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘1984,’” Robert Ukeiley, an environmental health attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, wrote in an email.

Colorado has failed for 15 years to meet national air quality standards, and last year the EPA classified the northern Front Range as a severe violator of ozone standards.

Areas that violate ozone standards are required to submit plans to the federal government that demonstrate steps the state will take to reduce air pollution.

But state regulators sent a plan to the EPA that acknowledged Colorado would again fall short in efforts to lower toxic air pollution to an acceptable level by 2024. The state’s plan laid out a formula to reach an older, more lax target by 2027.

First, Colorado needs to reach a standard adopted in 2008 requiring the reduction of ozone emissions to 75 parts per billion annually by 2027, and state air quality modeling indicates that will happen. Second, Colorado needs to reach a stricter standard set in 2015 of reducing ozone emissions even earlier — by 2024 — to 70 parts per billion. The state will miss that benchmark.

Ozone pollution causes a thick smog to hang over the Front Range, especially during the hot summer months. The pollution can cause respiratory problems, including asthma attacks, and it can damage plants as well as ruin mountain views.

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